'He's All The Way In': Law And Order's Mehcad Brooks Talks Shaw's Personal Stakes In Next Episode With His New Partner

Mehcad Brooks as Jalen Shaw in Law & Order Season 23x06
(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Law & Order is entering a new era as Season 23 continues in the wake of Sam Waterston's departure as DA Jack McCoy after more than 400 episodes. The next case in the 2024 TV schedule will showcase Jalen Shaw with his connection to the suspect of the week. It won't be an easy hour of TV for the detective, and Mehcad Brooks spoke with CinemaBlend about how high the personal stakes are, including with Riley as his new partner after Cosgrove's departure.

Let's start on what Shaw faces when he becomes involved in a crisis before his workday even starts in the next episode, called "On the Ledge," on February 29.

The Murder Case That Gets Personal For Shaw

The promo for "On the Ledge" gives an early look at Jalen Shaw encountering a man on the verge of jumping off of a bridge to his death, but a good deed to start the day will lead to tragedy a little later with a shooting. When I spoke with Mehcad Brooks about what's on the way, he shared how personally invested his character is:

"Oh, all the way in! He's all the way in. It's multidimensional in the ways that he's magnetized to the case, to the chase, to the inciting incident, everything."

Unfortunately, "all the way in" can mean a very difficult case for characters on Law & Order, and it sounds like that will be the situation for Shaw in "On the Ledge." This isn't a first for Mehcad Brooks on Law & Order after his character faced his worst nightmare in Season 22, but it's not quite the same this time around. The actor went on to preview the new case this week:

"Shaw is on his way to work, he sees a guy who's contemplating suicide, he literally and figuratively talks this guy off the ledge. And Shaw goes into work and tells Riley about it, and he's immediately called out to an active shooting at a hospital where a doctor has been shot and was killed… We follow up with some leads, and then through these leads, we find out that the active shooter is actually the guy that Shaw saved, or talked down from the ledge, who he saved himself and is now a fugitive and a single father raising his son because he blames the doctor for medical malpractice and he believes it's racially based and racially biased."

Shaw has had to battle racial bias on Law & Order before, both with what he faced himself from other officers in the NYPD and people he encountered while investigating the cases of the week. That ties into what raises the stakes so high for him this time around, as Brooks continued:

"And so this episode sucks Shaw in in the fact that he's dealing with his own racial trauma. He's dealing with being reminded that families are going through racial trauma, he's being reminded that people can break from years of mental anguish and pain and anxiety and depression that builds up over a lifetime of discrimination and racism. And just because the DSM-5 hasn't incorporated that into its framework yet doesn't mean that it doesn't affect mental health and physical health outcomes in the Black community. And we've known this for a very long time. We just don't call it that. We just call it 'Hey, fix your face,' just keep it in, because that's what our ancestors had to do. Their survival was predicated on that."

It remains to be seen how much his colleagues are (or are not) able to see where Shaw is coming from, since – as Mehcad Brooks pointed out – he has "his own racial trauma" to process that they won't have faced themselves. The detective comes at cases from a different perspective on the Black community, and Brooks pointed out the importance of healing and understanding:

"But now we're getting to a place where I think after George Floyd and after 2020, people can see that it's not just a community being overly sensitive. It's something that has to be addressed and has to be dealt with and has to be healed. And I think one of the most radical things that someone can do is to heal trauma while it's still happening. And we always think about healing as 'I got to heal something that happened to me in the past.' But what Black Americans have to do on a daily basis is heal something that happened in the past, to heal racial trauma in the framework of systemic oppression. It is nothing less than a Herculean feat, and I think we get a small insight into that tomorrow night, and the sensitivity and the vulnerability that comes with that."

Mehcad Brooks went on to share that he's proud of the writers, the producers, and director David Grossman for how they "allowed [him] to go there" and "provided the space for [him] to go there" so that the show can "initiate this conversations in America." The actor also addressed one of the biggest changes of Season 23: the arrival of Detective Riley.

How Shaw Handles The Case With Riley As His Partner

Season 23 picked up in the new year with Jeffrey Donovan nowhere to be seen as Frank Cosgrove, with Veep's Reid Scott joining Law & Order as Det. Vincent Riley. Shaw and Riley seem to be working together well enough, but "On the Ledge" is a different kind of case for them to tackle. I asked Mehcad Brooks if he thinks Shaw would handle the case any differently with Cosgrove than he does with Riley on February 29, he responded:

"That's a good question. It's a great question. I think we handle things differently with any different human being that we're partnering with or dealing with. As my mother would say, know your audience. [laughs] So maybe there are things that Shaw would have withheld from Cosgrove, maybe there's things he would have told him. Tomorrow night is an opportunity for Shaw and Riley to get a lot closer, for Shaw to tell Riley about some of the experiences that have happened to him in his life and why he understands, not condones, but why he understands what this single father who has been through so much racial trauma did what did what he did. And I think truth is truth, and it is the delivery of that truth that sets us free. So I would like to think that Shaw would respond the same way no matter who his partner is."

Luckily, the wait to see Shaw tackle this difficult case is nearly over. "On the Ledge" airs on Thursday, February 29 at 8 p.m. ET to start off a night of Law & Order action on NBC. In addition to what Mehcad Brooks shared, check out the promo below:

If you've missed any of the new season this year, you can find every episode of Law & Order Season 23 so far streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription. Past seasons of L&O – as well as Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime – are also available on the streamer.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).